QUESTION

Food for Thought: What about fat in chicken skin?I'm trying to control my fat intake, and I know that chicken skin contains a lot of fat. Is it necessary to remove the skin before baking, or can I cook the chicken with the skin on, as long as I don't eat it?

ANSWER - Available data indicate that fat doesn't migrate into the meat during cooking. An average half breast of broiler chicken with the skin contains over 7 grams (about a teaspoon and a half) of fat and 195 calories. The same amount of chicken without the skin, regardless of whether you've cooked it with or without, contains about 140 calories and just 3 grams of fat. And leaving the skin on during cooking produces a juicier dish.

QUESTION - Does homemade Italian tomato sauce have any vitamin C left by the time it's served, or does the prolonged cooking destroy it?

ANSWER - According to published tables, you should expect to get about 20 milligrams (mg.) of vitamin C per cup from homemade spaghetti sauce. That's about one-third of the adult Recommended Dietary Allowance. But a cup of sauce is a fairly large amount, more than you'd probably eat with a serving of pasta.

And while published values are a useful guide, a number of factors can affect the quantity of the vitamin C you actually consume. They include everything from variations in the vitamin C content of the particular tomatoes used to how long the sauce cooked on the stove.

So yes, there is vitamin C in Italian tomato sauce. But the more important message is that this vitamin is available in such a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that you are unlikely to come up short. The best sources include citrus fruits, cantaloupe, strawberries, broccoli, green peppers and kale.

Smaller amounts in numerous other foods contribute to intake, too. Potatoes may not leap readily to mind when you think of vitamin C, but a recently dug potato weighing about 61/2 ounces provides an impressive 50 mg. of ascorbic acid. After three months of storage, the amount would have been halved, down to 25 mg. And after six months, that same potato would give you only about 12 mg. But that represents 20 percent of the day's allowance.

QUESTION - Are there any rules governing how much air can be whipped into ice cream or is that decision left to the discretion of the manufacturer?

ANSWER - I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream - but not for air. And while it may seem that some ice cream is nothing but air, regulations limit the amount of expansion involved. We must point out, though, that adding some air is a necessary step in producing food-quality ice cream. While too much air does make the mixture too frothy, too little will leave the texture heavy and coarse.

The extent of "overrun," as it is called, is controlled by the rate of freezing and the stage at which it is stopped. The amount varies considerably - from 30 to 40 percent in typical homemade ice creams to between 70 and 100 percent in commercial varieties. And as you might expect, in commercial production, overrun is carefully monitored. Under the regulations governing ice cream that may travel from one state to another, 100 percent overrun is the maximum allowed. At this level, a gallon of ice cream must weigh at least 41/2 pounds, exclusive of microcrystalline cellulose, which is used to improve body and texture.

Ice cream produced and sold within a single state is not subject to federal guidelines. However, most states do have similar regulations for frozen desserts.